I have actually never seen the first Van Wilder movie. Can you believe it? For some reason I avoided the first one, intentionally or not, I don't know. I have spoken to many who say the first is very funny, and one day I may be able to confirm or deny that for you. Instead, I have jumped headlong into the sequel. With Ryan Reynolds apparently not interested in reprising the role, it was decided to go forth with a second film sans title character. The star power has left with Reynolds and landed on the shoulders of Kal Penn, who portrays Taj Mahal Badalandabad. Generally speaking, it is not a good idea to do a sequel without the main character from the original (see: Son of the Mask, Dumb and Dumberer, etc).
I guess the main question is whether or not this is funny. The short answer is no. This is not a particularly funny movie. It is a movie that is unsure of what it wants to be. At times it is all about the T&A and other times it is about overcoming the odds and gaining self-respect. I guess it could be about both – it's been done before – but it comes across as awkward here. There is no real focus on story or characters. This could have been funny, and it has a few moments of hilarity (few and far between as they are), but it probably would have been better served as one of those direct-to-DVD films that National Lampoon puts out.
The story, such as it is, follows Taj across the pond, following in his father's footsteps at Camford University. Here he is the butt of a joke which sends him from the most prestigious frat on campus to the rundown barn, and its assemblage of rejects.
Seeing these poor souls and their lack of pride gives Taj an idea. He sets out to do to them what Van apparently did to him in the first movie. He takes these guys and gal and builds up their image. It's funny — as I watched this setup get put into motion, with the frat competition for the cup, and snooty stuck up frat assured of victory while Taj's rejects lament their chances, I could not help but think of Harry Potter, you know, the one with all the houses competing for a cup — I can't recall which it was.
The Rise of Taj is rather predictable, and it is not executed all that well. Still there are a couple of things going for it. There are some lovely ladies that parade across the screen, none of which get to display any type of acting ability. More importantly, I think Kal Penn is a solid actor, not really a leading guy, but he has potential. I thought that his presence onscreen was good, and his comic timing was decent. He is a comedic actor I would like to see with a better script, perhaps something along the lines of the original American Pie, or even something like his co-starring film, Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle.
Bottom line. A wasted opportunity for some big screen sophomoric humor. It pretty much falls flat on its face in a pool of its own missed opportunities. It attempts to mimic other similar films, yet falls so horribly short.